This article was originally published in Issue 3 of Ski+board 2016/17, read it in full here.

Ski+board writer Arnie Wilson tries out heliskiing in Italy.

The helicopter rotor blades are whirring, adrenalin is surging and we’re flying to a landing spot at 4,250m (13,944ft) for a heliskiing adventure. The Bugaboos or Cariboos in Canada? Think again - at this altitude it has to be Europe. We land high on a shoulder of Monte Rosa, the second highest mountain in the Alps, straddling the border between Italy and Switzerland. The Eurocopter clatters away, and as we gaze across an indescribably beautiful and breathtaking snowscape, the silence is almost palpable.

Our band of skiers is enjoying an off-piste excursion in the Monte Rosa-Zermatt area, led by Ski Weekend’s Gavin Foster with guide Seppi Enzio. We’d started in the Italian resort of Alagna where the helicopter flew us to the Col de Lys, just 384m from the summit of Monte Rosa. After some seemingly endless and exhilaratingly deep powder fields, we find ourselves traversing along the edge of the spectacular Grenz glacier between the peaks of Monte Rosa and Lyskamm along to the Gorner gletscher. I’d looked down on it so many times from Zermatt’s Gornergrat, but to be alongside and skiing what Foster describes as one of the best circuits in the ski world is utterly awe-inspiring. As we skirt the Gorner glacier, en route to Furi, above Zermatt, and the Theodul Pass which links Zermatt with Cervinia, it’s reassuring to have a little help from what Foster described as a “Tarzan death slide cable” – a rope to hang onto along the tricky bits at the edge of the glacier. From here we continue – hardly setting ski on a single piste all day - back to Alagna via the Theodul to Cima Bianca (Cervinia) St Jacques, Val d’Ayas, Champoluc and Gressoney. We’d skied an amazing thigh-burning 75 miles - all in one day!

Gavin Foster

But you don’t need to undertake such heady challenges to enjoy heliskiing in Italy. Momentum Ski’s Amin Momen thinks Courmayeur is the best heliski baptism, as he finds the terrain easier and you can be back in resort by lunch time – heliskiing isn’t allowed in the afternoon.

Of course heliskiing is hugely exciting whether you do it in Canada, Alaska, New Zealand, South America, the Himalayas, Iceland or the Alps – the high-octane thrill of being air-lifted, rotors whirring, with your guide to the top of a steep-and-deep powder run is universal.

In Canada the average drop is 700-900 vertical metres compared with 1,200-2,500m in Italy, explains Claire Jeffery, of Val Heli Ski, which ferries heliskiers from France - where heliskiing is banned - to Italy. And it’s costly in Canada. You could be looking at anything from £4,375 for a week - and that’s without the flights. The other big factor that affects price is the type of helicopter, group sizes and number of groups using one helicopter, plus in Canada the amount of vertical is included, explains James Orr who runs heliskiing in Alagna. In Canada you can range from three groups of 11 sharing a Bell 205 or 212 helicopter with 4,000 vertical metres from C$1,000 (£625) per day to a private group of four with an A-Star helicopter with 5,000 vertical meters from C$2,000 (£1,250) per day. In Italy the pricing structure is not so prescriptive and the number of people sharing the helicopter is determined by demand on any given day.

With a norm of seven runs a day in Canada, you’d think it had an advantage over Italy’s one or two a day. But Val d’Isère-based Pat Zimmer, who runs heliskiing in Sestriere, Italy for Pure Ski Company Heliskiing, disagrees: “On a good day a good group of skiers can easily do five or six or more. All the runs are between 900m and 1,200m vertical. Last season one customer with a private helicopter did a record 22 runs in a day!” Zimmer explains that the idea is to give Val d'Isère visitors easy and fast access to the different heliski areas in the nearby Italian Alps.

For the British skier, Italy is a lot closer than Canada, which makes it ideal for a long weekend break. And for skiers or snowboarders who are strapped for cash, Italy is a great place to savour its buzz. You don’t have to be a great skier to enjoy heliskiing just reasonably experienced in powder. Expect a safety talk before you set off. And the golden rule, wherever you are in the world, is never ski past the guide, unless he occasionally invites you to. He may have stopped above a crevasse or spotted avalanche potential.

You can explore Monte Rosa's fantastic Heliski terrain with the Ski Club's Freshtracks, find out more here - Monte Rosa Heli Escapades trip